BBC: Black Emojis and GIFs Are ‘Digital Black Face’ and ‘Cultural Appropriation’

'Digital blackface'

Is it OK for just anyone to use black emoji and GIFs? This writer says you could be risking "digital blackface".

Posted by BBC News on Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The BBC has run a segment claiming online reaction GIFs showing black people constitute “digital blackface” and “white people” using “dark-skinned emojis” are guilty of a “form of cultural appropriation”.

The online clip, presented by writer and Guardian contributor Victoria Princewill, begins with a “trigger warning”, in case viewers find historical footage of minstrel shows “offensive”.

Ms. Princewill claims the “most popular” reaction GIFs are “black people being dramatic”.

“This, is digital black face,” she declares, before comparing the GIFs to the explicit racism of past decades and claiming the tiny images used to communicate in text messages and on social media are the “21st-century version of that”.

Next, the presenter tackles “white people using dark-skinned emojis” – a “form of cultural appropriation”.

Michael Jackson eating popcorn, a popular reaction image picked out by the video

As she describes what “cultural appropriation” is for uninitiated – “paying little respect to someone else’s culture and using it however you please” – an image of a white woman with dreadlocks flashes up as a supposed example.

And when explaining what, exactly, is wrong with “white people posting these GIFs and using these emojis”, she says:

“Black people are not here for other people’s entertainment. We’re not symbols of excessive emotion. And we aren’t here to make you look more sassy, more sexy or more street.

“We don’t want to be seen as having two-dimensional personalities. Let us decide for ourselves how we wish to be perceived.”

The video finished by insisting the views expressed are those of Ms. Princewill and encouraging viewers to share their own perspective in the comments.

Nearly all of the top, most ‘liked’, responses on Facebook are negative.

“Oh please, can people stop being offended by every single bleeding thing! Emojis and GIFs… that’s the problem of black people? Really?” replied Ukonu Obasi, getting almost 4000 ‘likes’.

“She talks about cultural appropriation while wearing a straight hair? Listen, I am a black person, and I don’t care what emojis people use or the GIFs they put up,” he continued.

“‘Black people are not here for other people’s entertainment’ but the black people shown in the GIFs are literally entertainers…” added Nazz Grant, pointing out that many of the images featured are of comedians and entertainers.

“Oh right. So using that same logic, black people can no longer use memes with white people in them,” wrote Alan Crute.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.